Tracking ID UA-126977798-1
This past week, someone considerably younger asked me earnestly, "What is the basis for your personal and professional decisions? Have these changed as your life and work progressed? How do you know you need to change your framework for decision making?" There are many social science theories devoted to this topic, but I am synthesizing my personal tools to address these Important questions. I offer my personal perspective. In doing so I share a few examples from different cultural contexts which could be useful to you in my post this week. A few readers tease me about writing the "War and Peace" versions of a blog post-I am trying to preserve the depth of analysis and the contemporary penchant for concise, short reads. As always, links will be included if you wish to search further on this topic.
My personal foundation for making decisions of consequence involves first establishing who will be affected by my decision: My immediate family/loved ones? My work colleagues? My friends? The wider community? My future employer(s)? My community? What is the timeline for making this decision? Are finances involved? (output/input/timeline)
Most important is if the decision I make meets my personal criteria of being 1) ethical 2) practical 3) essential 4) has few or no harmful consequences
Recently reaching an actual decision, even for assigning simple tasks such as "who cleans the training hall?" may be arrived at very differently in the East than in the West. In societies where the 'communal' interest is supposed to be paramount and where taking individual initiative or asking questions is discouraged, many more steps in decision making may be involved and consensus arrived at before a 'final decision' is implemented. This all takes time. Time may be a crucial factor in decision making, especially in a work situation. Yet, time too, is assessed and valued differently in different cultures and societies. 'Later' in some countries can mean the same day, in others the same month. In Australia the phrase "back in a tic" could mean minutes, hours or days.
While honesty and truth are considered important and even integral (in theory anyway) in American society, "saving face" and "creating harmony" are often the paramount concerns in other societies. They don't consider omitting or "changing" the facts to be deceitful in the same way many western societies do. People in most countries selling a service or product will often "tell you what you what to hear as a customer/client" even if they know it is not true. Do you decide to reveal the truth, going against the common practice when you are not in your home country? A challenging dilemma, especially if you are in a position where you are responsible for others and not just yourself. For example: needing accurate information such as when electricity will be available in sub zero weather-rather than reporting that it will not be available for at least 48 hours, people will tell you…'soon' but if you knew it would be at least another 48 hours, you could plan accordingly with your team rather than "hope" the electricity will come back on in a few hours…you get the idea.
You can also reflect if you have made decisions that violated your own "code" because you knew it would further your position, career, relationship. There really is no such phenomenon as a "white lie" no matter how much it may be justified. If you do not have your own "code" yet, I urge you to define and refine one. It will serve as a compass for the most difficult and emotionally laden decisions.
Do you include others in your decision making by seeking out information from people who may have conflicting points of view or minimal investment in the outcome? I found working in the Middle East, especially in both Israel and Iraq, everyone seemed to have an opinion on any publicly announced problem or even if they overheard a discussion concerning a possible decision; whereas in Malaysia or China people were reticent about jumping into a discussion unless asked and even then they would often defer to my point of view or decision as part of being polite, or they would remain mute. I would also remain silent in certain countries (Siberia, Russia is one example) if I didn't agree and adjusted my conduct once I perceived the unwritten codes of conduct required decisions based on power and not cooperation.
When expertise and skills are needed in urgent situations in order to make an "informed decision" it is best to be realistic about your own abilities, experience and training. I have changed my approach to urgent decision making depending on the situation I may be confronted with. I often held back in the past, even in an emergency/crisis or didn't express a dissenting viewpoint for fear of being "dismissed" or being held responsible if my decision resulted in more serious problems, consequences which would be "on my shoulders". In family situations I would bury my code at times...for the sake of "peace". Never a wise long term compromise. Now, with more experience I am able to discern (most of the time) if I should press forward. There is an element of "gut feeling" and even "Divine guidance" in life and death situations and decision making is often done within nanoseconds. As I get older I worry less what people "will think" and try do make a decision based on what I know/feel is right, appropriate and essential for the situation.
Knowing the basis, the personnel involved in making decisions which you are involved with, or may have to implement-is a vital component to following on with those decisions which affect you and others. Did this person have all the information necessary to make this decision, do the decision makers have known biases, are the supervisors passing on a decision designed to make them look good but which will have a deleterious effect soon after on the rest of the team? Is your supervisor forced to carry out a decision they do not agree with? These are all dilemmas you need to be aware of before complying.
When you are responsible for a number of others, decision making dilemmas and consequences increase exponentially. Case in point, the dilemma of building a protective barrier, fence or wall…just around your own home, school, clinic...let alone along an entire border?
As a point of reference, even at a martial arts training center in Henan, they have built surrounding walls, installed electronic surveillance cameras, guards and an electrified gate 24/7. This is up in the hills away from any major routes or towns. Though there are many capable martial artists inside, they feel their own people and property are precious enough to invest in material protection. Some countries call these "peace lines" They made the decision years ago to draw clear boundaries. (see link below)
There has been an invasive narrative for a number of decades which has pervaded much of western society. The narrative preaches 'flexibility', 'openness' and 'no borders', no need for boundaries...everything can be negotiated, justified. Strong stances based on ancient principles* are discouraged. There is little tolerance for 'traditional' mores or time devoted to collaborating on a shared foundation and understanding of "ethics". In fact, there is a dismissal and denial of facts as the basis for some decisions resulting in confusion, inconsistency, error and worse repercussions for those affected by such primal decisions as: which gender will a child/adult be?!
"The idea of religion (as in love for and a sense of belonging to something bigger than oneself) has been killed and supplanted with narcissism and an idolatry of power and wealth, aesthetic values degraded, history rewritten, science erected as a dehumanising idol, traditional values denounced and disgraced, instead of updated and bettered. And now there is a push to eliminate as well the connection with the natural order of things, with trans-activism suggesting that the biological reality that has made our species one of the most successful, is somehow product of a power struggle, an imposition by a group of bigoted and reactionary elements unable to understand that individuals can freely decide their biological configuration. The result is of course total disorientation. The Shock doctrine applied to the social sphere."
Yes, dear readers-stay strong. Remain focused and review your personal code. The decisions you make today will and do affect you and others...tomorrow.
Until next week,
A little music and levity as a postscript. From "The Clash" the song, "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" on their album COMBAT ROCK (1983) go ahead, decide to listen: